Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple is one of the most iconic literary sleuths of all time. Here’s how the actresses who’ve played her compare.
Author Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple is one of the most iconic and celebrated literary sleuths of all time. The amateur investigator was first introduced in the 1930 novel Murder at the Vicarage, appearing in 11 subsequent novels up until 1976. The character has been portrayed on the stage, on radio, and for our purposes, on the big and small screen several times since the character’s screen debut in 1961.
Over the past 60 years, Miss Marple has been portrayed by several actresses, many of whom hail from different parts of the world. To see who did Miss Marple the most justice on screen, scroll below.
Having starred as Miss Marple in a single German production of Murder at the Vicarage in 1970, Inge Langen is the most obscure actress to play the legendary role.
Directed by Hans Quest, the film finds Marple investigating the mysterious murder of a local official who has drawn out two false confessions from innocent suspects. Once Marple clears the married couple who confessed, she works her way through a throng of motivated suspects to solve the murder.
In 2004, iTV adapted a series titled Agatha Christie’s Marple, which ran for six seasons and a total of 23 episodes. In 11 of those episodes, Miss Marple was played by British actress Julia McKenzie with a much softer and self-deprecating side.
While McKenzie is no replacement for Geraldine McEwan, who played Marple in the first three seasons and 12 episodes, she owns brings her own trademark to the role in such exciting chapters as They Do it With Mirrors and Murder is Easy.
Korean actress Yunjin Kim brings a refreshing wrinkle to the character of Miss Marple in the Agatha Christie mash-up series, Ms. Ma, Nemesis. So far, Kim has played Marple in 32 episodes and counting.
In addition to Christie’s novel Nemesis, the show pulls various storylines from such other works as The Body in the Library, A Murder is Announced, The Moving Finger and The Mirror Crack’d From Side to Side. Kim plays Ms. Ma, a younger international spinoff of the character.
Estonian screen and stage actress Ita Ever became the third person to portray Miss Marple in a feature film. She first starred in the role in the Russian adaptation of A Pocket Full of Rye in 1983.
Ever acquitted herself well enough to be asked to reprise the role in a 1990 TV adaptation called Miss Marple Stories. In 2005, Ever played Marple for the final time on stage in the translation of The Mirror Crack’d From Side to Side.
In 39 episodes produced between 2004 and 2005, Japanese actress Kaoru Yachigusa voiced the role of Miss Marple in the animated TV series Agatha Christie’s Great Detectives Marple and Poirot. Yachigusa excels with her experience and ability to breathe new life into the role.
Among the various novel and short stories adapted in the series include Strange Jest, Sleeping Murder, The Blue Geranium, Ingots of Gold, The Tape Measure Murder, and several others.
American actress Helen Hayes plays Marple twice on a pair of made-for-television Christie adaptations. The first came in the 1983 telling of A Caribbean Mystery and the second came in a 1985 redo of Murder with Mirrors.
Hayes’s performance as Marple was noted for being cheery and anodyne, rather than the snarky and sarcastic crank some of the others played the character with. In 1986, Hayes also appeared in Murder is Easy, a non-Marple mystery in which she plays Lavinia Fullerton.
Geraldine McEwan brought a caustic bite to her depiction of Marple on three seasons and 12 episodes of ITV’s Agatha Christie’s Marple from 2005 to 2009.
In addition to being given a rich backstory, McEwan’s Marple is notable for how stern, sterile, and unfunny she is. In making a concerted effort to move away from the most memorable of screen performances of the character, the lack of camp and kitsch makes McEwan one of the most unique Marples of all.
The BBC once adapted all 12 Christie novels about the character in a series simply titled Miss Marple. Joan Hickson, who first played the role on stage in 1940, played Marple in all dozen.
Given the sheer breadth of her performance over eight years and 12 feature-length episodes, Hickson branded the character as her very own. As a result, Hickson scored back-to-back BAFTA nods in 1987 and 1988 for Best Actress as Miss Marple. Hickson also won a 1987 UK Royal Television Award for Best Performance in the Marple series.
Although Angela Lansbury only played Jane Marple once via the star-studded 1980 adaptation of The Mirror Crack’d, her acting choices made set her far apart from the pack.
Rather than a doddering elderly woman, Lansbury plays Marple with sharp-minded intelligence who doesn’t suffer fools easily. Of course, her 264 episodes of Murder, She Wrote as the iconic Marple-like Jessica Fletcher only bolsters her silver medal status.
The first, best, and most definitive portrayal of Miss Marple belongs to Margaret Rutherford, the London-born actress who first played the part in the 1962 adaptation of The Mirror Crack’d Side to Side. With no one else to compare her performance, Rutherford owned the role in a way that was imitated for years.
Rutherford reprised the frumpy, dizzy, and quirky turn as Marple in several films, including Murder, She Said, Murder At the Gallup, Murder Most Foul, Murder Ahoy!, and The Alphabet Murders.
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